Engineering Students Complete Guatemalan Clean Water Project

Missouri S&T student chapter of Engineers Without Borders finalizes their public water system project.

After nearly a decade of work, a small Guatemalan village can now count on clean drinking water thanks to a group of volunteers from Missouri University of Science and Technology’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

The group of engineering students first traveled to Nahualate, Guatemala, in 2008 as part of a volunteer project to design and build a public water system. This month, a delegation from EWB’s Missouri S&T chapter is scheduled to return to Central America to mark the project’s official completion.

Engineering students with Missouri S&T's student chapter of Engineers Without Borders travels to Guatemala to complete their clean water project. (Image courtesy of Missouri S&T.)

Engineering students with Missouri S&T’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders travel to Guatemala to complete their clean water project. (Image courtesy of Missouri S&T.)

“For about two or three months now, we’ve had water flowing continuously into homes,” says club member Elysia Sparks, a junior chemical engineering major. “People are so excited, they were running up to us to pay for their connections during the most recent trip in November.”  Other EWB student members from S&T who will be participating in this final trip include ceramic engineering student Matthew Baer, civil engineering student Chadburn Barton and environmental engineering student Sean Gillette.

The Guatemalan agricultural community’s 500 households and 3,000 residents had previously relied only on shallow wells for their drinking water.

Over the years since the project’s inception, the Missouri S&T students, along with mentors drawn from the ranks of faculty as well as professional engineers, typically visited Nahualate once or twice annually to work on tasks such as installing water meters, pressure values and distribution lines; designing and constructing an elevated storage tank; and helping residents obtain public services by navigating the local bureaucracy.

Earlier this year, the student group received $750,000 in private funding– a $500,000 challenge grant from the Houston-based Montana Cahill Foundation and a $250,000 gift from Missouri S&T graduate David Heikkinen and his wife, Ann.

Missouri S&T established its EWB student chapter in 2005, three years after the international organization was founded to help developing communities improve their quality of life through sustainable engineering projects. Teams of S&T students are working on projects in small communities in Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras.

To learn about other student-led Engineers Without Borders projects, check out the story Student Engineers Without Borders Builds Bridges in Bolivia.

Source: Missouri S&T Newsroom